Enlarge / The iOS version of The New York Times app.Andrew Cunningham
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Citing local Chinese regulations, Apple confirmed today to The New York Times that the publication’s English- and Chinese-language apps had been removed from the Chinese version of the Apple app store.

Apple said that “when the situation changes, the App Store will once again offer The New York Times app for download in China,” but it declined to cite the specific regulations violated or who had contacted Apple about it in the first place.

The apps were removed from the store on December 23.
According to the Times, the Chinese government has been taking steps to block the publication in the country since a series of articles in 2012 highlighted the hidden wealth of then-Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and his family. Legislation called “The Provisions on the Administration of Mobile Internet Application Information Services” passed in June of 2016 prohibits apps from publishing “prohibited” information among other things, and the Times suspects this is the rule that got its news apps pulled.
“The request by the Chinese authorities to remove our apps is part of their wider attempt to prevent readers in China from accessing independent news coverage by The New York Times of that country, coverage which is no different from the journalism we do about every other country in the world,” said NYT spokesperson Eileen Murphy.
China has become a very important territory for Apple’s bottom line in the last couple of years, though 2016’s sales were far below the heights of 2015’s.

The country also plays a large part in the manufacturing of Apple’s hardware—the Times detailed last week the billions of dollars in benefits and subsidies that China and the city of Zhengzhou have provided to Apple’s manufacturing partner Foxconn.

These reasons make it beneficial for Apple to play ball with Chinese authorities and make investments in China and Chinese companies.

But there have been other censorship-related clashes, like when China shut down the Chinese iTunes movie and book stores just a few months after allowing them to open.

Apple has also refused to give its operating systems’ source code to the country.
When contacted for comment, Apple Director of Corporate Communications Fred Sainz told Ars that Apple had no statements beyond what was already printed in the Times article. Readers in China can still access the Times‘ reporting using a VPN or other software that circumvents the country’s so-called “Great Firewall.”

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